The NFL Scouting Combine this week provides teams with a great chance to evaluate many of the prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft, and before the week begins ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. held a conference call for media on Monday to discuss the Draft, prospects, and what teams may do.
CBS4's Mike Chappell asked Kiper a question about the Colts, as Kiper had Indianapolis taking Alabama center Ryan Kelly in the first round with the 18th pick in his most recent mock draft. Is that a pick that he'd be comfortable in making despite Kelly not being in the top 25 on Kiper's big board?
"Yeah, I would be. He's right there," Kiper said, going on to mention how Kelly very possibly could crack the top 25 on his next big board depending on how this week goes. As for taking a center in the first round, Kiper pointed out a few examples that have worked out well. "Alex Mack, think about what he's done in his career, he was a first round pick," Kiper said. "Nick Mangold was a great late first round pick to the Jets as a center out of Ohio State."
"So I think Kelly," Kiper added, "based on the way he played at Alabama, the great leader he is, how durable he is, I think he's a first round pick. I'd say if he's not at 18, maybe late [round] one, at worst early [round] two, and for the Colts with [quarterback Andrew] Luck, having a guy like Kelly right there in front of your franchise quarterback wouldn't be a bad call."
Kiper is one of the only ones I have seen project Ryan Kelly to the Colts in the first round, but it actually makes sense. The Colts have a big need at center, the question has simply been whether the team would be reaching to grab Kelly with the 18th overall pick. Kiper doesn't seem to think that will be a huge issue, as he thinks it's entirely possible for Kelly to crack the top 25 prospects on his next big board.
From the standpoint of the pick, player, and fit, however, Kelly (6-5, 297 pounds) makes sense. A three-year starter at Alabama, he won the Rimington Award in 2015 as the country's top center. He was named an All-American during his senior season, allowing just four quarterback pressures and zero sacks all year. He started 35 games during his time with the Crimson Tide and is generally viewed as the top center prospect in this year's draft as a player who could be a reliable long-term starter for a team.
The Colts could really use that, as neither Khaled Holmes nor Jonotthan Harrison have really impressed as the team's starting center in recent years. The team could stand to upgrade from the two of them, and Ryan Kelly would be a nice fit along the interior of the offensive line and would help to protect Andrew Luck.